About me

F. Heath Damron

F. Heath Damron, PhD in Microbiology

Research.  I study the biology of the respiratory pathogens: Bordetella pertussis, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, and Burkholderia cenocepacia.

My focus has been to understand the mechanisms of regulating the alternative sigma factor (AlgU/σ22/RpoE) which directs gene expression leading to the ability of the organisms to adapt and survive.  In particular, my work has focused on using induction of envelope stress to understand how P. aeruginosa can adapt to survive in harsh conditions by secreting the exopolysaccharide referred to as alginate.

My Master’s graduate research started in environmental microbiology with Dr. Charles Somerville where I worked with bacteria that degrade the carcinogen, vinyl chloride.  During my PhD I worked with Dr. Hongwei Yu in the School of Medicine at Marshall University.  In Dr. Yu’s, lab I focused on proteolytic regulation of alginate production.   My postdoctoral studies were funded by the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation to study with Dr. Joanna Goldberg at University of Virginia from 2010-2013.  From 2013 to October 2014, I worked under the direction of Dr. Erik Hewlett at University of Virginia.  The Hewlett lab focuses on Bordetella pertussis and the adenylate cyclase toxin (ACT).  Due to our interests in ACT and RpoE, we have performed RNAseq to better understand how B. pertussis regulates ACT in coordination with RpoE.  Additionally, we have expanded our upon our in vitro data to determining the in vivo gene expression profiles of B. pertussis during infection and the host transcriptional responses as well.

In November 2014, I began my appointment as Assistant Professor in the Department of Microbiology, Immunology, and Cell Biology in the School of Medicine at West Virginia University, Morgantown, WV.  The main focus of the laboratory is to understand B. pertussis infections to develop a next-generation vaccine.  We are revisiting the use of known B. pertussis antigens as well as identifying new antigens.  We utilize classical microbiology, biochemistry, molecular cloning, standard biomedical protocols, in vivo imaging (IVIS), next generation sequencing, and bioinformatics to address our research questions.  While B. pertussis is the focus of the lab, I collaborate with Dr. Mariette Barbier on projects involving P. aeruginosa.

PIA and PIAAMV plates arranged into FHD

Service.  While a postdoc at UVa, I actively collaborated with graduate students, postdocs, and primary investigators at University of Virginia and also have on-going projects with labs at other institutions.  In the Microbiology department at UVa, I was the founding president of the Postdoctoral Association where I organized monthly meetings and events for my colleagues.  In 2013, I co-organized the first annual UVa Post Doc Research Symposium. I am a member of the National Postdoctoral Association because of my interest in seeing the “postdoc situation” reformed for the good of science and junior scientists.

Outside of the Laboratory

Heath Damron on the Upper Gauley River, WVHeath Damron on Mill Creek Falls, Anstead, WV

I am an avid outdoors-man.  Whitewater kayaking is my primary passion.  While at Marshall University I founded the Marshall University Whitewater Club and taught people about the sport that I love.  The creeks and rivers of West Virginia are my favorite place to go on my adventures.  I also greatly enjoy fishing, hunting, rock climbing, mountain biking, riding motorcycles, and working on my cabin in the woods. In addition to my outdoor adventures, I also love to travel to see new places and experience new things.